Politicians tend to get in trouble when they stray from their carefully prepared scripts.
Such was the case last week when Alberta’s finance minister made some controversial remarks after delivering what was probably a pretty conventional speech about this province to the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto.
In case you missed it, Iris Evans went off on a bit of a tangent after her formal speech — stating that to raise children “properly,” one parent should stay home while the other goes to work.
The MLA for Sherwood Park said she expects to have successful grandchildren because of the way she raised her kids.
“And they’ve understood perfectly well that when you’re raising children, you don’t both go off to work and leave them for somebody else to raise,” she explained.
Evans also suggested there is a link between a lack of education and mental illness or criminal behaviour.
“The huge failure of Canadians is not to educate the children properly and then why should we be surprised when they have mental illnesses or commit dreadful crimes?” she said.
Not surprisingly, Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann was quick to cry foul.
He said the former minister of children’s services is obviously out of touch with the need for both parents, in many Alberta families, to work outside the home just to make ends meet.
“And it just illustrates a very narrow, backward look at what’s happening in our society today; where she’s blaming two working parents for bad children’s outcomes,” added Swann.
He said if Evans didn’t apologize publicly for her comments, his party would pressure the premier to reprimand or fire her. She has since apologized.
So what are we to make of all of this? Here are a couple of observations:
l Evans is probably correct in noting that children are often better off in homes where one parent stays home with them while are young. However, she missed the boat by not pointing out that many families can’t afford to do that, and that countless single parents have raised happy, successful offspring.
l The finance minister might be correct in suggesting there is some correlation between a lack of education and criminal behaviour, but connecting a lack of education with mental illness sounds wrong. If there is any research backing up that relationship, Evans should point it out to the general public and the media.
Interestingly, in her Toronto remarks, Evans said she made it her mission to teach her children how to handle money.
Now, as adults, they live in good houses, have topped up their RRSPs and have plenty of savings.
Ironically, as finance minister, Evans appears to be spending more money per capita than any of her counterparts in other Canadian provinces. Does that suggest her parents didn’t teach her how to handle money correctly?
Furthermore, if Evans is so big on parents staying home with their kids, why doesn’t her government give Albertans a financial incentive so that more of us could afford to do that?
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.